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Acceptance Speech for Maria Sobrino
Given before the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the Business Women’s Network, and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

How could I have ever imagined that I would be in Washington, D.C. today, in this beautiful Capitol building, addressing such a distinguished audience? As one of the first recipients of the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, I would like to thank the National Foundation for Women Legislators, the Business Women’s Network and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership for this prestigious honor.

As the first-born child of a Mexico City attorney, I was expected to enter into a career of law when I grew up. But being the headstrong person I am, I decided to pursue my own dreams, and after attending college and obtaining degrees in accounting and business administration, I opened a small chain of flower shops. They were a hit! By my mid-twenties, I decided to “branch out,” so I added to my business ventures a travel and convention business in Mexico City. But I didn’t want to stop there, because I had my sights set on America. I wanted to pursue the American dream. In my heart I knew that the United States is truly a “land of opportunity” for those who have the courage to strive and persevere no matter the obstacles. When I first arrived in California in 1982, I knew very little English and no one in California, but it did not matter to me, because I was determined to succeed.

As to what business I would create—well, I reached back to my own cultural roots and into my mother’s kitchen for the answer. It was in that kitchen that I first tasted my mother’s special gelatin dessert. In a small, 700-square-foot shop in Torrence, I began making gelatin, 300 cups per day by hand, and spent the rest of my time educating myself about the food industry. I created Lulus Dessert Factory, which today produces 50 million dessert cups a year. Not wanting to let myself get too lazy, in 1990, I decided to expand. I created a new company, the Fancy Fruit Corporation, and I began producing all-natural frozen fruit bars, which are now sold worldwide.

Was it an easy climb? Of course not. Everyone who has ever started a business knows just how challenging it is to make it run successfully and turn a profit. And I was not successful solely because of my own efforts. Mine is a success story that has to do with friends and families and wonderful employees, who continue to be supportive and enthusiastic and hardworking. Mine is a story of community. There is a saying that “no man is an island.” This is especially true today, as each of us becomes more involved in our communities, our nation and in the world.

As a Hispanic businesswoman, I can tell you that the Hispanic market is exploding. Over the last 20 years Hispanics have been moving up and making a positive difference in society. By the year 2020, it is predicted that there will be almost four million Hispanics employed in professional and managerial occupations. And within the next two decades, Hispanic entrepreneurs, of whom 12 percent of the CEOs are women, will be directly responsible for the employment of 2.5 million workers. Finally, by 2020, revenues from Hispanic firms will reach  $336 billion dollars. Hispanic purchasing power and annual incomes are on a steady climb upward. As a Hispanic businesswoman, it is so encouraging to see all these positive changes taking place and to be a vital part of making them happen.

I am proud to be a part of the Business Women’s Network, heading up the Hispanic/Latin Council. This new Council was officially launched with the main objective of expanding global vision within the Hispanic Community. Toward this vision, the Council has brought together a pool of talented Hispanic businesswomen—bicultural and, in some cases, bilingual—who understand the importance of reaching the Hispanic community and making it a vital part of the 21st century, so that it may effectively become a part of the global marketplace.

Currently there are 34 million Hispanic people, living and working in the United States, who are contributing to the economic growth of this country. I am proud to be one of them, and I am grateful for your recognition. Gracias and Thank you.